After a flurry of white wines, we continued this “Young Sommelier” tasting with several flights of red wines.
The first quartet featured New World Pinot Noir & we started off with the 2012 Neyers Pinot Noir “Roberts Road”. This limited bottling is produced from the heritage Swan selection ( as opposed to clones) planted in a very cool, fog laden vineyard greatly affected by the gusting coastal winds from the Petaluma Gap & farmed by the Sangiacomo family. In comparison, we then tasted a VERY highly acclaimed, quite pricey New Zealand Pinot, which was much more about very ripe, forward fruit (exhibiting much Dijon clone qualities), hard edges & high alcohol & glycerine. This was not to down play what New Zealand has to offer at all. Since both wines were served blind, the purpose was instead to determine what was good wine & assess the quality for dollar ratio–both factors I believe are very important skills that a wine buyer needs. Not only was the Neyers a much better & more complete wine, but it was remarkably less than half the price! We then continued by serving the 2011 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard”. I chose this wine because it was from the much less heralded 2011 vintage AND to show what the 40 year old, own rooted Mt Eden heritage vine selection, grown in this cool, rocky site could do in such a challenging year. How can one not love such elegance, purity, vinosity, seamlessness, wonderful texture & balance? We also appreciated how refined & long this wine really was. In comparison, I though the 11 year old 2005 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” would show what can happen with bottle age. We were all so surprised how incredibly youthful, closed & unyielding this wine unexpectedly tasted on this day. AND, the rocks have now overtaken the more primary fruit nuances that once was. I really wish I had more of each stashed, they were that interesting. At the last moment, because we were talking about the significance heirloom/heritage vine material can have on a wine & the true stand out character the iconic Sanford & Benedict vineyard innately has, we decided to open a bottle of the 2010 the Hilt Pinot Noir “Vanguard”, yet another standout wine project by the Jonata/Screaming Eagle group, led by star winemaker Matt Dees. The core & soul of this wine is Mt Eden & Martini heritage vine selection from the Sanford & Benedict vineyard, planted in 1971 on its own roots & organically farmed. (FYI–the Jonata group leased the first 30 acres or so of this vineyard on the right side of the road, hence the organic farming. The left side of the road & the rest of the vineyard is overseen & operated by the owners–the Terlato group). What a completely different take on what this vineyard wants to say through the finished wine! The Hilt wines were the true standouts from our June trip up & down California & the various appellations. That is saying alot, considering all of the people & vineyards we visited!) Definitely a project you should check out!
Because we were tasting at our VINO restaurant, I also wanted to include at least some Mediterranean red wines. The first was the 2006 Domaine Tempier Bandol “Classique”. Well, everyone attending certainly had heard of this iconic Provencal estate & its noteworthy wines, but having one 10 years old offered most a new experience. The wild, rustic gaminess just leaped forward in a very masculine, feral manner. Although there were nuances of raspberries in the core still, the wine really has transformed with the bottle age & the earth was now in the forefront. While Domaine Tempier has over the years been the real standout of the Bandol appellation, I would have to say Domaine Terrebrune is the one to now also keep your eye on. For example, the 2006 Terrebrune Bandol, we poured in comparison, was much more striking with charm & a truly outgoing, uplifting personality. Yes, the wild herbs, shrub & earth still showed through, especially in the perfume, but this wine was clearly more refined & transparent than Tempier. I really found this wine to be so captivating. Interestingly, as a side note, I have also tasted the 1997 & the 1998 recently & was also similarly impressed. It is a good time to jump on their bandwagon….before the accolades & rising prices that come with being discovered & the ensuing high demand. It will happen with this estate.
Another interesting category of red wines we wanted to reiterate to these “Young Sommeliers” was Beaujolais. We have done many tastings featuring a small list of absolute standouts in the past to show how the Gamay Noir can have such deliciousness, umami & wonderful food friendliness. On this day, we decided to instead showcase how different they can become with a little bottle age. While it can be said that while many Beaujolais can age, the question is always, however, do they get better with bottle age. That is a question each taster will have to ask themselves…..as each palate & preference is unique & different, just as each example (& vintage) will be too. To show what can be, though, we chose to taste a 2014 Foillard Morgon “Cote de Py” versus a 2006 Foillard Morgon “Cote de Py” (out of Magnum). By serving them side by side BLIND, the group had no idea what was in front of them–no grape variety, no region of origin, no vintage, no winemaker. The question was simply, which of these wines were “good”. A wonderful & intriguing fruitiness with underlying gunflint, stony, earthy nuances just leaped out of the 2014’s glass. The taste was equally as exuberantly fruity, intriguing, charming & outgoing with the vinosity, stones & earthiness definitely in the background. This wine also had a very unique viscosity & texture to it, a signature facet I regularly find in Jean Foillard’s Morgons. I thought the wine was fabulous! The 2006, on the other hand, showed a completely different perspective. No fruitiness now. Stones, gunflint, earth, exotic spice, musk, sandalwood, more aged Pinot Noir like in character & much more intellectual. Seemingly lighter on its feet, acidity more pronounced & much more soul. Wow!
We then continued with a quartet of Pinot Noir based reds from Burgundy. The first duo paired the 2006 Francois Jobard Blagny “La pièce sous le bois” (Côte de Beaune) versus the 2004 Maume Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru “Lavaux St Jacques” (Côte de Nuits). The intent was to remind tasters there is an innate difference between the southern & the northern subregions of the Cote d’Or in profile & character. Furthermore, these differences can get further magnified with some bottle age to them.
The next duo paired two Premier Cru wines, both 2004 & both from the Chambolle Musigny village–2004 Berthau Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru & the 2004 Louis Jadot Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru “Les Amoureuses”. The intent here was to show how different the wines from this village can be from both of the above 2 wines & appellations. Interestingly, a side note that came up while tasting these 2 BLIND was how the Jadot bottling seemed to have a veil covering it, as one taster noted. Muted, as another added. Perhaps it was because of poor storage/shipping or the wine was in a funk at this stage of its life?